Football is a passion in the South. For Falcons fans it has also been heartache. It has been expectations that have never been met. It has been hope. It has been PAINFUL!!
Since 1966 the Falcons have won three Division Championships. They have won one NFC Championship, and been to one Super Bowl. Not much celebrating in the past 41 seasons!
Each year Falcon fans cross their fingers, hope and pray that this will be the year that it all comes together and something magical happens. For a franchise that has never had back to back winning seasons, this hope seems like a true Vegas long shot.
Despite the failures of this franchise, we the fans, have had the opportunity to see many great NFL players wear the red and black for the Falcons.
So it is with that thought I mind, that I give you those that I believe are the twelve greatest Falcons ever. Please let me know who I missed.
I have ranked them from twelve to one.
12) Jamal Anderson #32 (RB). The Falcons drafted Jamal Anderson in the 7th round of the 1994 draft. He played for the Falcons from 1994-2001. Jamal rushed for over 5,300 yards as a Falcon and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1998. Jamal set an NFL record in 1998 with 410 carries (this record has since been broken). Jamal led the Falcons to an NFC Championship in 1998 and a Super Bowl berth that same year. We can thank Jamal for the "Dirty Bird," then again maybe not.
11) Claude Humphrey #87 (DE). Drafted in 1968, Claude went on to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Claude was a main stay on the Falcons defensive line from 1968-1978. He was an All-Pro 8 times, and played in 6 Pro Bowls. He recorded 126.5 sacks in his career, including a league leading 15 in 1976.
10) Gerald Riggs #42 (RB). Gerald played in Atlanta from 1982-1988. During that span he rushed for over 6,600 yards. In 1985, Riggs rushed for 1,719 yards and scored 10 TD's. A 3 time Pro Bowler, Gerald amassed over 5,200 yards from 1984-1986.
9) Mike Kenn #78 (OL). Drafted in the first round of the 1978 draft, Mike went on to play an incredible 17 years with the Falcons. He started all 251 games that he played as a Falcon. Kenn was a 5 time All Pro, and played in 5 Pro Bowls. He retired after the 1994 season.
8) Jessie Tuggle #58 (LB). A Valdosta State graduate, the "Hammer" was signed as asn undrafted free agent by the Falcons in 1987. He played for the Falcons from 1987-2000. Tuggle was a member of the 1998 Super Bowl team, and was a five-time Pro Bowler. During his career Tuggle amassed over 1,800 tackles. Tuggle also returned five fumbles for TD's during his career (an NFL record).
7) Michael Vick #7 (QB). Ok, so you know he had to be on the list. Before his prison days, Michael was Mr. Excitement on the football field. From 2001-2006, Vick threw for 71 TD's and rushed for 21 more. A three-time Pro Bowler, Vick led the Falcons to one of their greatest victories, the 27-7 win over the Packers at Lambeau Field in 2003. During his six seasons in Atlanta, Vick amassed over 15,000 yards through the air and on the ground.
6) Alfred Jenkins #84 (WR). From 1975-1983, Jenkins was the go-to guy for any Falcon QB. During his Falcons career, Jenkins caught 360 passes for over 6,200 yards. He also scored 40 TD's. A two-time Pro Bowler, Jenkins still holds that Falcons record for most receiving yards in a season (1,358).
5) Deion Sanders #21 (DB). The Falcons drafted Neon Deion in 1989 with their first round pick. Many believe that Sanders was the greatest DB to ever play in the NFL, and one of the greatest athletes ever. During his stay with the Falcons (1989-1993), Deion picked off 24 passes and scored 10 TD's. Deion also played with the Atlanta Braves from 1991-1994. Deion is the only player to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series.
4) William Andrews #31 (RB). A third round pick out of Auburn in 1979, William played with the Falcons until his career ended much too early in 1986. A bruising running back, No. 31 rushed for over 5,900 yards in his Falcons career. He also scored 30 TDs. Andrews played in four Pro Bowls, and was one of the first NFL players to amass over 2,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season.
3) Steve Bartkowski #10 (QB). "Bart" was the first pick of the 1975 NFL draft. Bartkowski went on to win the NFL Rookie of the Year award in 1975. Steve played with the Falcons from 1975-1985. A two-time Pro Bowler during his career, he also led the NFL in passing TD's (31) in 1980. Bartkowski is still the Falcons all- time leading passer. Steve was also the first client of sports agent Leigh Steinberg.
2) Jeff Van Note #57 (OL). From 1969 through 1986, Van Note anchored the middle of the Falcons offense line. His 18-year tenure with the Falcons is the second longest in the NFL with one team. A five-time Pro Bowler, Van Note has always been a fan favorite. Jeff is still active with the Falcons, doing post-game radio. Many feel #57 should be in the Hall of Fame. You will get no argument here.
1) Tommy Nobis #60 (LB). Mr. Falcon was the first pick in the 1965 draft, and the first player drafted in Falcons history. Nobis won the NFL Rookie of the Year award in 1966, leading the Falcons with 294 tackles. A five-time Pro Bowler, Nobis deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Nobis patrolled the middle of the Falcons defense from 1966-1976. Nobis was also well respected by his peers. Larry Csonka once said, "I would rather play against Dick Butkus than Nobis." Coach Norm Van Brocklin once pointed to Tommy's locker and said, "that's where our football team dresses."
So there they are, my top twelve.
Honorable Mention. Jim Mitchell (TE), Dave Hampton (RB), Jim "Cannonball" Butler (RB), John James (P), John Zook (DL)
I'm sure there are more. What do you think?